Friday, August 7, 2015

Easy-Peasy Weeknight Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Hello, folks! It has been CRAZYPANTS around here! My second child, a little boy, came along in June, and five minutes later, I'm in my last week of maternity leave! And, just like with the first, all of those great little projects I had planned to do during my time off still sit, sadly untackled, amidst the unfolded laundry and dirty dishes. At least I showered, right?

Not that I haven't enjoyed myself, of course. Sure, I have to change my clothes three times a day- made all the more tiresome by the fact that I only fit into 3 outfits- and two cups of fully-leaded coffee has become my new minimum. But let's face it: babies are perfect. They can't talk back, they can't get into things. They just smile and make baby noises and smell amazing after a bath. A much needed bath, since diapers are apparently a complete waste of money on boys. I have to keep waterproof pads under this kid when I hold him.

At the moment, both kids are napping. Well, if we're being honest, Bumblebee is napping, and Ladybug is lying in bed, wide awake, under strict orders not to get up from that bed under penalty of death. Okay, not DEATH, but penalty of no "Angelina Ballerina", which gets approximately the same reaction. Mama needs a breather! Don't give me that look. We're coming off of a double-ear infection (her) and a runny nose (him), equating to some SERIOUS sleep deprivation (me). This is where you chime in with "Oh man, I've been there!"

In this blessed moment of quiet, I figured it was high time I shared my secret for getting dinner on the table- ever- with two tiny children: Pan-fried chicken and baked Brussels Sprouts.

This is one of my daughter's favorite meals. She's not always a fabulous veggie eater, but she will gobble these sprouts up and ask for more. And the chicken, oh this chicken. It is so easy, so fast, and you will want to make a ton of it so that you have extra to throw on your salad the next day. Also, if you're pregnant and 4 days late, it's a great chicken to make while dancing around your kitchen in a desperate attempt to induce labor. True story. Didn't work (he was 6 days late, in case you were wondering).

Okay, here we go: Weeknight Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Preheat your oven to 400 F and throw a cookie pan in to preheat with it. If you can get it together enough, it's handy to halve your sprouts the night before and save yourself a lot of time. If you're me, well, that never happens. Rinse, dry, and chop your Brussels sprouts in half, and put them in a large bowl. Toss with EVOO, salt, pepper, and garlic salt.

Once they are evenly coated, throw them onto your preheated pan and try to arrange them face-down.

Bake them for 25 minutes, or until they look like this:

They will be a little crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with a ton of flavor. My dad, who is not a Brussels sprouts fan AT ALL, will eat a large helping of these babies. This recipe can also be used for Green beans or asparagus. Cook asparagus for 20 minutes and cook green beans for 40. Hooray for versatility!

While your sprouts are in the oven, it's time to work on the chicken. Line up your ingredients and take a picture commemorating the night you put away the takeout menus....even if you get them back out tomorrow. No judgment. I'll probably order pizza tonight. Anyhoo...

KAPOW!!!! Could that be simpler?

In a Gallon ziplock, combine paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Shake thoroughly to combine. Add the chicken, seal, and give it another good shake, until all of the seasoning is coating the chicken fairly evenly. Doesn't have to be perfect.

Open the bag back up and add the wheat flour. Shake again to coat.

Note: this is a great job for your little one. As Jessica Chastain eloquently put it in "The Help", "This is so much fun!"

If you haven't seen it, rent it. Read the book first, and then be impressed with how unusually true the movie is to the book. Purists, rejoice!

I digress. In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium heat. In batches, fry the chicken strips, about 3-4 minutes per side. Each side should look like this:

 That's it. Just plop them in there, and flip a few minutes later. Update your Facebook status while you're waiting ("Guess who's making dinner from scratch tonight? THIS GUY! OMG LOL SMH YOLO, et al.")

Serve your delicious dinner with a nice vase of flowers and a bottle of Chardonnay. Milk for the kiddos, though. 'Cause, you know, Social Services and all that jazz. Revel in your significant other's disbelief, and try to ignore them when they search the hall closet for a secret housekeeper.

This chicken is so easy to chop up and add to pastas, salads, on top of homemade pizza, or even while you're still standing at the stove, finishing up the last batch because you just couldn't wait that long. If you have a few extra minutes, go ahead and double the recipe. You'll be glad you did.

Easy Baked Brussels Sprouts
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

1/2 lb Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and halved
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tsp Garlic Salt
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F. Take a large, ungreased cookie pan and put it in the oven to preheat.
In a large bowl, combine sprouts, EVOO, garlic salt, salt, and pepper, and toss until evenly coated.

Pour Brussels Sprouts onto your preheated pan, and arrange so that the cut side is face down.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the outer leaves start to brown. Serve immediately.

Easy Weeknight Pan-Fried Chicken
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

1 lb Chicken Tenders
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/4 C Wheat Flour
1/4 C Canola or Olive Oil
1 Gallon Ziplock Bag

Pour oil into a large saucepan and preheat on medium heat.

In the ziplock bag, combine paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and shake until well mixed. Add chicken and shake vigorously until fully coated. Add flour to the ziplock and shake again to evenly coat the chicken.

Using a fork, remove 3-4 chicken tenders from the bag and lay them in the pan. Fry each side for 3-4 minutes, until fully cooked. Remove chicken from oil and repeat with next batch until all of the chicken is done.